Initial Analysis: Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6

tommy rees michigan

The Notre Dame defense led the Irish to their first win over bitter rival Michigan since 2008 with a dominating performance that carried a sluggish offense that struggled to put points on the board.  Here are some notes based on initial review.


  • The game sped up on Everett Golson this week.  Golson was progressing nicely week to week, but this week the game sped back up on Golson and he took a step backwards in his progression.  The good news for him is that Brian Kelly said that he is still the starter and he has a bye week to regroup, watch some film, and get ready for his next start.  There are going to be games like this for young quarterbacks.  What separates the great ones though are their ability to take games like this and regroup and learn from them. We’ll get an idea of where Golson lies in the first quarter in Soldier Field in two weeks.
  • Tommy Rees deserves some credit.  Rees was booed when he came off the bench against Purdue and all he did was lead the game winning drive.  This week he came off the bench again and while he wasn’t spectacular, he protected the football and guided Notre Dame to another win this week.
  • Cierre Wood needs to run the ball more… a lot more.  I’m not sure why Wood didn’t get more carries this week, but he’s averaged 5.6 yards a carry to Theo Riddick’s 2.8.  Wood is literally averaging twice as many yards a carry than Riddick and still, Riddick has received 29 carries to Wood’s 17.   If this offense is going to turn things around and give the defense a break from time to time, we are going to have to see a healthy does of #20.
  • Why not throw it to Tyler Efiert more downfield? I loved the throw to Efiert in the 4th quarter on the crucial 3rd down, but why wait until the end of the game to attempt it?  Kelly has a lot of issues to address on offense during the bye week, but finding ways to get #80 more involved in the offense has to be right up at the top of his priority list.


  • Manti Te’o played like a man possessed. Manti has been on en emotional roller coaster the last two weeks and that ride continued with perhaps his most dominating performance as a collegiate football player.  Te’o had 8 tackles (1 for loss) to go along with 2 interceptions.  After not having a an INT through his first three seasons, Te’o has three picks through four games this season.  Te’o is putting his name in serious consideration for all of the major defensive player of the year awards he received pre-season recognition for.
  • Stephon Tuitt is still a beast.  Tuitt now has a sack in every game this season after picking up his sixth on the season this weekend.  At his current pace, Tuitt will have 18 on the season – a number that would shatter Justin Tuck’s Notre Dame single season record of 13.5.  Based on the havoc Tuitt is causing already this year, it is hard to not think about just how much better this line could have been had Aaron Lynch not transfered, but as is, Tuitt is making the loss of Lynch much more tolerable than anyone thought it would be.
  • Danny Spond’s return has strengthened the defense a lot.  When Spond returned to the lineup last week, it allowed Notre Dame to shuffle its linebackers exactly how they wanted them and the result has been a defense that hasn’t allowed a single offensive touchdown in back to back weeks.  Spond was all over the field last night with
  • Bennett Jackson and Kei’Varae Russell are growing up fast. Both Notre Dame corners are really starting to play well.  Jackson and Russell each picked up an interception on Saturday night while Jackson also led the Irish with 9 tackles and added a fumble recovery.  The Notre Dame pass rush really helped the secondary last night, but they still turned in a great performance.
  • Sheldon Day might be growing up faster.   While Jackson and Russell are certainly growing up in a hurry, the true freshman defensive end is growing up even faster.  Day picked up another sack last night and is very quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with off the edge of the Irish defense.
  • Matthias Farley and Nicky Baratti stepped up in Jamoris Slaughter’s absence.  Notre Dame suffered a major loss last week when 5th year senior Jamoris Slaughter was lost for the season, but for at least this week, sophomore Matthias Farley and freshman Nicky Baratti filled in admirably with Baratti picking up his first career interception.

Special Teams

  • Kyle Brindza continues to impress. Kyle Brindza hit both of his field goals this weekend and is now 6 for 7 on the season – connecting on his last 6 attempts.  Brindza’s kicking has been very steady since missing his first collegiate attempt making field goals more and more of reliable option.
  • Ben Turk had a rough night.  After the best back to back weeks of his career, Ben Turk had a rough night with a couple of bad punts at really inopportune times.  Turk has been very solid this year though so hopefully he can shake it off and bounce back in two weeks.

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  1. Ejs

    Absolutely. Nix has been a beast. I don’t know about you but my heart sunk when he went down in the Michigan game. Luckily he came back in and it sounds like he is fine.

    Kind of funny now that the B1G has fallen on its face after listening to the B1G fan boys say how ND was scared to join. Even still can’t stress how important it is to go 3-0 in the B1G slate. Michigan and Michigan St both were playin for the pride of B1G. They scored 6 pts. Haha. Sorry but living in the heart of B1G country this is great!

  2. Let’s not forget Louis Nix. He usually doesn’t end up getting the sack, but the inside pressure he exerts helps the guys coming off the edge who DO get the sacks. He’s also been strong against the run. He’s an unsung defensive hero.

  3. Almost forgot

    How about our guy prince shembo. That guy is “strong like bull”. In the michigan st game he swatted their left tackle like a fly and devoured the qb. Michigan’s line man struggled against him all night. He really wanted his bike seat back!!!!!

    If you don’t understand the bike seat reference, for your viewing pleasure

  4. Shaz,

    Agree on all points. Especially the observation of denard’s demeanor. I saw the exact same thing. He was just struttin onto the field in the beginning of the game. I’m sure he was thinking he was going to go for another 400-500 yds. I’m also sure that it didn’t take long to figure out that this is a different defense than he has seen the past two years. It seemed as though the defense was putting some extra stank on their hits when they got a hold of robinson. He really did look like a broken player by the 4th. I was nervous going into the 4th with such a slim lead but after seeing robinson’s body language i started feeling much better. The kid just didn’t have a comeback left in him. I won’t be surprised if he struggles all season. He has really been roughed up in 2 of their first 4 games.

    I personally think kelly is playing the qb situation beautifully. As long as he handles golson off the field correctly, this is actually an advantage for us. How many teams out their can go to their backup qb who has also played in 20 games. Rees’s role fits him well. Like i said before i have really gained a lot respect for him. What a team guy. Not a lot of D1 qbs with his experience would be able to handle his situation as well as he has.

  5. I thought Kelly did the right thing putting in Rees. A lot of it depends on how he handles it behind the scenes with Golson, which we obviously don’t know. I think Kelly made it clear there is no quarterback controversy. Golson is the man, end of story. The media tries to make a big deal about it but it’s not. Golson is still raw. He will develop and get better with experience. But in the early going, there are times where experience is going to trump that, like with Michigan and Purdue.

    If I were the coaching staff, I’d make sure to let Golson he is the quarterback. I’d make sure to tell him when he is on the sideline to watch and learn. One day, he will be making the big plays and winning games, and with his talent, that will be sooner rather than later.

    I’d think it would be far worse for his ego if he were left in the game and ends up being the reason ND lost the game. Again, I think it’s all in how the coaches work with Golson. And I agree knowing Rees is back there waiting to come in could push Golson to be better, because he doesn’t want to leave a game.

    Also, it’s been a long time since ND’s had a good defense. Hats off to Kelly and Diaco and all the defensive coaches. The secondary has even been playing well considering all the upheaval they’ve gone through.

  6. Yeah, the offence only scored 13 points, but it should be remembered that the defensive coordinator on the other side of the field was Greg Matheson.
    This guy brings a ton of college and pro experience.
    To say Golson, a starter for all of four games, was a bit out matched here, shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

    To be a consistant winner, and to have success agianst the kind of schedule and talent that ND is facing this year will take a total team effort.
    That means using all your QB’s, runnung backs, corners, saftey’s, linemen, special teams players, ect..

    I think that’s what we are seeing so far from this team.

    Interesting observation: Denard Robinson walked into ND stadium all smiles like he owned the place (and for good reason when you look at his previous 3 games agianst us).
    By the fourth quarter, the ND defense had completly wiped the smile from his face.
    I saw Robinson get absolutly drilled twice by Teo, and flattend on his back by Shembo. You could just tell that those shots really took their toll.

    Now, I’m no expert at reading lips, but it wasn’t very difficult watching a Michigan assistant coach ask Denard on the sideline, “Are you Alright?” … Twice!

    If you have to ask a guy twice if he is OK, the answer is… probably not.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the lack of offensive production by ND.
    But a closer look at who we have played might help explain this.
    Agianst a weaker Navy team, ND ran wild.
    Then the next 3 games were agianst very formitable defenses and defensive coordinators. (Purdue, MSU, & Michigan)
    It’s not like we were playing Florida International, or Eastern Michigan.
    These are good Big ten teams, with good Big Ten calliber Defenses, and excellent defensive coordinators.

    We played great defense, and didn’t beat ourselves. That’s all alot of us here ever asked for before the start of the season.
    It’s really not a bad way to play, and I for one, have really enjoyed it thus far!

    1. I don’t disagree, Shaz, that the opponent had some contribution to our lack of offensive production, but, I still feel that more points should have been scored off more of those turnovers. Even with the fair haired wonderboy, the same one some on this blog site are giving more praise (in my opinion)than what I believe is deserving, didn’t have a steller performance and the Michie’s for whatever reason, really didn’t defense him that tough. My point is, we go against a team that plays great D & O, not scoring points is not going to win ballgames against that type of opposition. Yes, I’m excited about this team. Problem though, 10 years ago we had a team with similar production dynamic issues (good D but the O couldn’t score points in that worst coast offense scheme). I hope we don’t continue to experience that. Where the hell is Mr. Wood, by the way. Clearly the better runner but not getting hardly any touches. Makes me wonder what is going on. I would like to see EG be allowed a little more room and use some designed running plays. I will say this, I sure like watching them play with some intensity which we haven’t seen in a LONG TIME!


  7. The problems with the O starts up front. Just like our great D starts up front. I don’t know what the new O line coach is doing or not doing but he’s a candidate for early termination. The O line is soft and over-rated. Against Alabama we’d manage 0 points and minus-yards of O. For an offensive genius BK looks anything but.

  8. We have problems with the offense and it ain’t just at QB either. I hope this lack of offensive action is not going to trend.

    Go ND

  9. My questions is where is the designed QB runs with Golson. When Hendrix plays, they always call some read option, why not with Golson?

    Let the kid build his confidence by making some plays with his feet and it will also keep the defense on their toes.

    Hopefully this bye week will allow ND to hit the reset button on offense and they can create some sort of identity. It looks like the offense the put in for Rees is what Golson is running. It’s time to open it up a bit and let Wood be more involved in the gameplan.

    1. That’s what I have been wondering as well. Let the kid run a little bit and it would take some pressure off him to be a perfect passer.

  10. Love Rees or hate him, there is one thing you can’t deny. Somehow he finds ways to win. I really don’t think leaving Golson in for this particular game was going to win it for ND. He just didn’t seem to have it together. I wouldn’t care if this is the way things went the rest of the season, as long as the winning continues. Let Golson be the starter, let him learn what he can, and if or when he starts struggling you have Tommy who seems to really be a better player coming in off the bench IMHO. Whatever the situation, Tommy does not appear to be making the turnovers he did last year, and if it continues, only good things will happen, especially if the defense gets better.

    I agree with the Wood scenario. I don’t understand Kellys thinking sometimes, Wood was getting big gains when he got the ball, then suddenly he disappears and you don’t see him the rest of the game. Is he still in Kellys doghouse over the suspension? Still working his way back into the rotation (like Rees)?? I don’t understand why you keep your best back standing on the sidelines.

    Am I mistaken, or did Goodman not even get on the field Saturday night?

    Kelly is a looong way from an offensive genius.

    1. “Love Rees or hate him, there is one thing you can’t deny. Somehow he finds ways to win.”

      Thats the comment I’m tired of, he doesn’t win games for us. It’s like saying 5 years ago Kyle Orton was winning games for the Bears. We have already wasted 2 seasons on him I don’t want to waste any more.

    2. I am totally baffled as to why Cierre Wood is watching from the sideline. There must be something going on behind the scenes that us fans are not aware of. Poor practice, bad attitude, dinged up…. who knows. Cierre Wood should be getting the bulk of the carries…Wake up Kelly

  11. defense saves kelly’s derriere. it did not think that diaco would deliver but he has. the defense is playing way above themselves, the way all irish teams should. shades of page, duranko, kevin hardy, mccoy, stonebreaker et all. thanks guys. but michigan is not the big leagues. they got clobbered by alabama. we squeaked by. after all this times kelly has not developed an offensive scheme. with golson i thought we would be in a wishbone triple option offense. and we have three great backs, the best tight end, a MIGHTY offensive line, and four great quarterbacks. and no offense. every offensive drive is opportunistic not dominating, overpowering and with the ability to wear down the defense. think he needs an offensive coordinator with national experience. you have to produce 25-28 pts
    a game to be in the big leagues. all this talent and he does not know what to do with it. god protect us. notre dame our mother.

  12. The completion to Eifert was the only time that I saw a ND wr get any separation from a db. We don’t have guys on the perimeter who can cause defenses to consider them as legit deep threats. Stacking the box to stuff the run in order to get an ND qb to make pinpoint passes seems to be the optimal strategy against ND. Losing MF was more significant than many are willing to admit.

    1. I respectfully disagree. Chris Brown and Davaries Daniels are both very fast and have been open deep on more than a few occasions. Golson has just been missing them. The problem with the offense is the inconsitency with the o-line in both run blocking and pass blocking. Maybe we need some different personnel in there. Also, I’m not sure that some of our o-lineman are as good as we all think they are. Remember they are all Charlie Weis recruits and while Charlie brought in some great talent on both sides of the ball he did not recruit well on the o and d lines in my opinion.

      1. I thought Davaries wasn’t at full speed. That being said, the completions that I’ve seen pretty much were to guys who were covered and were thrown behind the db, making an in-stride completion impossible. But I hope that you’re right and that I’m wrong.

  13. Can we all agree that Tommy Rees is not the answer at QB? He didn’t “guide” the Irish to a win last night. The defense did. At some point Kelly is going to have to let Golson just play and let him learn. Only playing a quarter and a half isn’t going to let him develop. If he doesn’t develop we have zero chance at beating teams like OU, USC and Stanford. That being said…GO IRISH!

    1. …with a defense this good the only answer at QB is the player not committing turnovers. I’ll take 4-0 with E.Golson having a slightly bruised ego than possibly 2-2 while he learned not to turn it over.

      1. The only good a 4-0 start does for us is if we are progressing towards being better. I don’t think thats what we are doing right now. If anything the offense is taking steps backwards. I’d take 2-2 if Golson was learning and getting better every week. What if we had lost last night after we pulled Golson? What do we gain by doing this time and again? The only thing Kelly is doing is making Golson keep looking over his shoulder for Rees.

      2. You would rather be 2-2 REALLY? Come on, you talk like the people who say you shouldn’t keep score so kids self-esteem won’t be hurt.

        Having to look over his shoulder at Rees is the BEST thing for Golson because if he wants to play he will get better.

      3. I don’t care about the kids feelings…I care about the development of the program. I don’t want another 10 years to pass before we break the top ten again. But if thats good enough for you guys thats fine. Big picture…big picture

      4. Wow Matt, you need to give Rees some credit here. He is clearly the better quarterback, right now. He has the best command of the offense and it’s mostly experience alone why he is better than Golson. Tommy hit his ceiling of potential where Golson COULD be better, but hasn’t shown it yet. Kelly sticking with him to be the starter is showing you that we are trying to get higher than Rees’s ceiling of potential at QB. I actually like how Kelly is handling the QBs. Rees did nothing wrong with the offense this weekend. The biggest pass of the game on the third down to Eifert couldn’t have been any better. Also, Rees’s first drive of the game was a TD. Give the kid, and the coach some respect here.

      5. Doing nothing wrong is not the same as doing something right. One could argue that Rees’s limited playing time is helping him not make the mistakes he did last year. I just don’t see how the offense is getting better by spliting time at QB. If the offense is still this bad at the end of the Miami game I have a feeling we are heading towards a Gerry Faust like 6-4 season not a Lou Holtz national championship season.

  14. With Kap and Lynch at DE, Tuitt might not be having the kind of season he is now. I say we got rid of a bad apple in Lynch and th defense is much healthierphysically and mentally in his absence. Bigger losses were the corners who chose elsewhere but I am excited for BJax, Shumate, and Russel stepping up and getting better. Excited for Miami! Go Irish!

    1. I agree. We will never know what ‘may’ have happened, we only know what did happen. And yes, the young man Tuitt is becoming a true monster. Our young recruits and nest year’s recruits will make us what they call ‘relevant’ once again. I say we are ALWAYS relevant. I am proud of the kids. Go Irish.

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